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|I don't think it is Mrs Bennet who singles out Mary
Written by Kathleen Glancy
(4/21/2010 11:34 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Marys reaction to Charlotte's engagement, penned by Anne-Marie
as Mr Collins' next possible choice. The exact wording is "Mrs. Bennet wished to understand by it [Mr Collins announcing his plan to return to Longbourn soon] that he thought of paying his addresses to one of her younger girls", which I think does tell us her thoughts, but the passage after that "and Mary might have been prevailed on to accept him. She rated his abilities much higher than any of the others; there was a solidity in his reflections which often struck her, and though by no means so clever as herself, she thought that if encouraged to read and improve himself by such an example as hers, he might become a very agreeable companion" is IMO the voice of the omniscient narrator. I cannot imagine even Mary saying to her mother or anyone else "Though Mr Collins is by no means so clever as me, I think that if encouraged to read and improve himself by such an example as mine, he might become a very agreeable companion".
I agree that a marriage between them would have been a disaster - Mary does not want Mr Collins as he is but as something he might become with improvement, and it is open to doubt that she would be as capable as she thinks of improving him, or if it would make him happy when she tried. Charlotte does want him in spite of his faults, which she sees very clearly but thinks are outweighed by the material advantages the match will bring her.
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